A cool and refreshing lemonade is the first choice in blistering summer heat. While we all love this lemonade, for gardeners what is more refreshing is the sight of their lemon plant full of fresh lemons. Lemon care is easy and fun, and is even more rewarding if we take into account growing tips from experts.
- Species of Lemons (in India)
- Growing requirements
- Flowering season
- Pests and pesticides
- Common problems faced by growers
- Further reading
The origin of the lemon is unknown, though lemons are thought to have first grown in Assam , northern Burma or China. A genomic study of the lemon indicated it was a hybrid between bitter orange (sour orange) and citron. Lemon is a tropical plant/tree, although they are grown all over the world most of the professional growers are located in tropical or sub-tropical regions. Lemons can be grown quite well in pots and are ideal for balcony and terrace gardens. Most of us know about the use of lemon fruit but even the leaves of Lemon are quite useful for giving aroma to food and as an aromatherapy agent.
Species of Lemons
Commonly grown Lemon cultivar is Kargzi lime, but recently identified four high yielding cultivars Vikram, Prumalini, PKM, and Sai Sharbati are now gaining popularity. Commonly grown lemon varieties are Assam lemon, Italian lemon, Pant lemon, Galgal and Eureka lemon, Sevilla and Malta lemon varieties are popular in South India.
Growing requirements for better Lemon care
All of us are aware that every plant has adapted to a separate set of growing environment. They respond the best when these growing requirements are meet, hence it becomes vital for us to know the growing requirements of the plant beforehand to allow the grower to estimate if his/her garden has these conditions right. Relax, plants are very adaptive. They will happily adapt to your garden even if these conditions are partially meet. Let’s now have a look at these conditions one by one for Lemon. For ease of understanding we are describing them for Indian conditions.
Climate or weather is the first and one of the most vital parameter that will decide if your plant will survive or otherwise. In reference to Lemons/Lime/Citrus although they are grown worldwide, 6 largest producers of Lemon namely Mexico, India, China, Argentina, Brazil and turkey give you an idea of the climatic conditions that favor Lemon. Lemons are Tropical plant species and love warm weather with plenty of sunlight at least 6-8 hours of bright sunlight, hence they are grown mostly in tropical and sub-tropical climates. Temperature higher than 10 Deg Celsius at night is best for lemons. Most of India has the conditions right for growing Lemons. For places like Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh, States of Himancha Pradesh, Uttrakhand, Parts of Arunanchal Pradesh, Sikkim, Punjab etc. where there is a risk of frost it is best to grow Lemons in green house where temperature control is easier. Rest of West India, Central India, South India no special climate control needs are required as they are naturally Lemon heavens as far as climate is concerned.
Soil type for best lemon care
Although lemon trees can grow in nearly any soil with good drainage, they grow best in loamy or sandy loam soils. Trees planted in salty, heavy clay and high caliche soils suffer problematic and declined growth.
A simple test to find out if your soil is well–draining, Dig a hole 30 centimetres deep and wide. Fill it with water. If the water drains from the hole in 10 minutes or less, you have fast draining soil. If the water takes an hour or more to drain, you have poorly-draining soil. If the hole drains anywhere between 5 to 15 minutes you have a well drained soil. Cheers the lemon can be plants in this soil type.
Now this is a technical parameter and a little chemistry comes to your garden. Let me first define pH. In chemistry, pH (/piːˈeɪtʃ/) is a scale used to specify how acidic or basic a water-based solution is. Acidic solutions have a lower pH, while basic solutions have a higher pH. At room temperature (25°C or 77°F), pure water is neither acidic nor basic and has a pH of 7.
Lemon loves the pH between 5.5 to 6.5 even a pH of 7 will also work. Long story short Lemon loves the pH that of a slightly acidic soil. Hence all your efforts towards soil should be directed in the direction of keeping the soil well drained and maintaining the pH of 5.5 to 6.5 or max 7.
The next big question comes to mind is how to determine the pH of your soil. Well the answer is quite simple and you may like to invest a small amount of your gardening budget to buy a simple and easy to use instrument called pH meter. There are several types available in the market. I prefer the one shown in the picture. This or any other instrument can tell you the pH of the soil in seconds without too much of procedure or subject knowledge.
Watering as a factor in Lemon care
Lemons grow best in soils that are moist but not soggy. Water your tree every two to 3 days during the summer, providing it with 4 to 6 inches of water each month. Allow the soil around mature trees to partially dry between waterings. Over watered lemon trees may suffer from crown and root rots, while those not watered enough frequently shed blossoms and don’t produce as much fruit. To check if your plant needs watering, please make a test hole 1 inch deep if it is moist then you may skip watering. However final call to be taken after consideration of prevailing weather conditions.
Fertilizer for Lemon Care
Fertilizer’s role is to replenish nutrients in soil that have been removed/ used y plant for its growth, flowering and fruiting. It is advisable to use Organic/Natural fertilizers since they provide all nutrients for your plant’s healthy growth.
Application of fertilizer also has an impact on water draining capacity and pH of the soil. All organic fertilizers keep the soil lite and allow good drainage, but no all organic fertilizers maintain a acidic environment in soil. For example Ash which on one hand is an gold mine of Phosphorus, Potassium, Magnesium and other minerals makes the soil alkaline but on the other hand elemental sulphur, Gypsum make it acidic.
What does Ecotika Suggest?
As per our observation for Lemon ideal combination is Cottonseed meal and Ash in a ratio of 7:1 respectively, for simplicity if you take 7 parts of Cotton seed Meal mix it well with 1 part of Ash. You can purchase Cotton seed meal from us.
But when traditional ingredients are scares as in metros or are of unreliable quality it is safe to use fertilizers that are designed as all weather, all purpose and all plant fertilizers. These fertilizers are designed s as to provide balanced and wholesome nutrition to plants without you needing to get into the nut and bolt details, saves your time, efforts and objective is achieved.
Raking/Tilling as a part of Lemon care
Raking/tilling the soil is a good practice. However there are other opinions as well. But in my opinion it aerates soil around the plant roots and allows plant roots to breath. A root system that has access to oxygen and is able to breathe has an improved capability to absorb nutrients from soil. In lemons context, Lemon has tendency to make bad root balls. Which means it can grow huge chunks/clusters of roots. Tilling and raking can help remove these excess roots and help the plant stay healthy and keep supplying you Lemons for your favorite lemonade.
Lemons (It is also true for almost all species of Citrus) flowers and produces fruits almost all the year round, but there are three major flushes in June-July, September-October and January – February. These are known as Mrig Bahar, Hast Bahar and Ambia Bahar respectively. Fruits of September-October (Hast Bahar) flowering harvested during summer months are most remunerative. To achieve this, irrigation be suspended for 1 to 11/2 months before actual flowering.
As mentioned earlier, Lemons ( or any other citrus) is a warm climate plants. Their growth is slowed during winter months, actually it is so slow that you can easily call it dormancy, In India it is in the months from November till January in places where winter is short, but for places where winter is prolonged it can extend till arrival of spring (Holi). During this time no matter what fertilizer you give or what treatment you do (of course I am not considering destructive option that you take like uprooting the plant or cutting it down) it won’t just respond. Stay patient and let the climate row a little warmer and you will start noticing positive changes and lemon kicking back to life.
Pests and pesticides
Pests and pesticides are one of the major topics of lemon care, When your plant get attached by pests it is time for you to go all guns blazing. But while pests are no doubt not good for your plant be very judicious in deciding to use pesticides, there are some pests like butterfly larvae that feed on lemon leaves but commonly do not bring major losses if your plant is healthy. Other pests life leaf miners, mealy bugs and cankers are dangerous and must be dealt with heavy hand.
The major pests affecting the Acid lime and lemon plants include Lemon butterfly, leaf eating caterpillars, whitefly, leaf miner and mealy bugs. These pests can be controlled by spraying with Monocrophos, Endosulphon or Phosphamidon 1.5 to 2 ml.per litre of water at an interval of 10-15 days. Instead of repeating the same pesticide different pesticide be used at each spray.
Among the diseases Gummosis and canker are very devastating. For control of Gummosis, use ring and basin system of irrigation to avoid contact of water with main stem so that the disease causing soil borne fungus will not attack the stem. If disease is seen remove the affected portion of bark and 1 cm of surrounding healthy bark with knife and apply Bordeaux paste (one part copper sulphate plus one part quick lime and sufficient water to make paste) thoroughly on the wound.
Canker is caused due to bacterial (xanthomonas sp.) infection, which develops considerably during rainy season. It appears as a minute yellowish-brown spots on stem, leaves and fruits which turn into corky brown specks. Affected leaves turn yellow and drop down. Remove all the affected parts and fallen leaves and burn them. Spray the trees with Bordeaux mixture 3:3:50 by using 1.5 kg copper sulphate plus 1.5 kg quick lime in 225 litres of water or 1250 gm of copper oxychloride in 500 litres of water also can be sprayed. Repeat, if necessary at an interval of 10-15 days.
Common problem faced by growers, and its tips for lemon care
My Lemon Plant is growing well but is not producing flowers and is not fruiting.
Well if the plant is healthy, and is still not producing flowers and hence not fruiting it could be one of the following reasons;
- Age; Have you grown you plant form seed, if so it may take about 3-4 years to mature and start flowering, this duration may get longer.
- Recently planted; If you have just bought the plant recently and have potted it please allow 1 year to start flowering, at first flowering may be little and flowers may drop without pollinating, stay patient it will eventually start and convert to bloom as your plant matures and adapts to the environment.
- Bad root ball; As we discussed earlier in raking/tilling, that lemon
How do you know if the plant is root bound? Look at the bottom of the pot and see if roots are poking out the bottom. This is a bad sign. Don’t be afraid to gently ease the plant out of the pot to check its condition. If you see more roots than soil, this is a bad thing.
If your plant has become root bound you may need to unpot it, loosen the roots gently so as not to cut the main roots, you may end up breaking some bad bad roots (bad roots look brown and black, while the healthy once are white or very light brown). You may want to get help of an expert in doing this. It is better to re-pot the plant in a bigger pot, best is it can be planted in garden soil.